Annnnd I’m back once again to pick up where I left off in this culinary cliffhanger of a blog entry. Last time I started out talking about the overall nature of the tapas restaurant Meson Sabika, and what exactly tapas are to the world foodie community. Now, I can finally get to the heart of the matter with the actual description of these lilliputian dishes that stand large on any dinner table.
I have had quite a few different types of tapas all over Spain from the ubiquitous pulpo gallego (Galician octopus) to the infernally chewy orejas de cerdo(pig ears)
, but I can attest to Meson Sabika faithfully recreating these regional Spanish flavors stateside. They serve both hot and cold tapas in typical Spanish fashion, so I’ll just comment on two hot tapas and two cold tapas to keep it short and sweet. One of the cold tapas I’d recommend would be the rollito de buey (literally a “little ox roll”) which is absolutely sensational due to the fact that it uses a thinly sliced, succulent beef tenderloin wrapped around a mixture of blue cheese, dates, and Portobello mushrooms. Now some would think that the addition of dates might turn some picky eaters off, but it provides a flourish of sweetness that nicely balances the earthy flavors of the mushroom, the acidic bite of the cheese, and the savory taste of the beef. The second cold tapa I’d try again would be the patatas con alioli (potatoes with garlic and oil). It’s a variant on your typical potato salad which utilizes the Catalan alioli mayonnaise that is molt creamy and packs quite a potent garlic punch. However, I would not recommend this if you are on a very important date or business meeting since it can make your breath quite pungent depending on who’s making it that day so tread carefully (though if you love garlic as much as I do, it’s worth it everytime).
As for the hot tapas, it is a lot harder to just pick two because they have greater variety and are quite more creative in terms of their presentation. The first one you should order is the pato confitado (or duck confit for those who don’t habla español), but the name does not do this dish justice. Although it is on the smaller size, like all the other tapas, it is a small leg of duck that has a very crunchy skin that leaves a sweet, smooth aftertaste on your tongue whilst the cinnamon apples provide a warm, contrasting texture to the duck skin. Plus, there are mushrooms that are thrown in for good measure, but they really are not the highlight of this tapa. As always, I saved the best for last with my number one tapa of all time: patatas bravas. This dish is quite possibly one of the simplest of tapas, but the one that I have seen the most variations of in terms of the preparation and taste ranging from bland, undercooked tubers to the perfectly fried potato cubes served with a side of peppery bravas sauce. This aforementioned sauce, from what I have tasted in the states, has yet to be recreated with the same panache as they do in Spain, but thankfully Meson Sabika provides their own adequate touches to this fan favorite. They dice up and fry fresh potatoes in a bowl while lightly covering them in a tomato based sauce that is not very spicy, and these potatoes are then covered with a generous helping of shredded Manchego cheese.
Even though this is not the traditional bravas I pine for, they are quite filling and the paprika in the sauce provides a punchy zing at the end of each bite that makes me always come back for more.
Overall, Meson Sabika provides a small slice of Spain in the Chicagoland area in the most elegant of settings. The prices are decent, the food is fresh and delicious, and the atmosphere is ideal for any sort of occasion. To close with two of my favorite Spanish sayings, I say hasta luego y ¡A beber y a tragar, que el mundo se va a acabar! (Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die!).